Archive for the Pehlwans & Gurus Category

Splendour & Beauty

Posted in Pehlwans & Gurus with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2011 by designldg

© All photographs are copyrighted and all rights reserved.
Please do not use any photographs without permission (even for private use).
The use of any work without consent of the artist is PROHIBITED and will lead automatically to consequences.

“Because God created it the human body can remain nude and uncovered and preserve its splendour and its beauty.”
(Pope John Paul II, born Karol Józef Wojtyła, 1920-2005)

When I reached the little akhara (gymnasia) which is lost in the fields near Sakalhida, a village in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, I first saw this pelhwan (Indian wrestler) who was outside with a gada.

A gada is a large round rock fixed to the end of a meter-long bamboo staff which is lifted and swung for exercise.
It may weigh as little as five or as much as fifty to sixty kilograms.
In the Ramayana and Mahabharata the gada is often mentioned as a weapon.
In popular religious art and iconography Hanuman is almost never depicted without one. It is not only the symbol of his strength but also of his countenance. The gada he carries is highly decorated and made of gold. At championship bouts wrestlers are awarded gadas made of silver. The gada is, then, clearly the mark of a wrestler’s prowess. Given the preponderance of phallic symbols in the akhara and the gada’s general shape it is evident that swinging a gada has clear symbolic overtones of sexual potency and virility.Each time the gada is swung it is brought to a balanced position, erect from the wrestler’s waist.The phallic aspect of the gada is also evidenced by its association with snakes. In the Harivamsa Akrura dives into the serpent world where he sees Ananta asleep on top of a mace…
In shape a gada resembles the churning stick used to make butter and buttermilk. A parallel between churning and sexual energy has been drawn above. By swinging the gada one might say that a wrestler is churning his body to increase his store of semen.
(“The Wrestler’s Body: Identity and Ideology in North India” by Joseph S. Alter)

“Vanity is so secure in the heart of man that everyone wants to be admired: even I who write this, and you who read this.”
(Blaise Pascal – French Mathematician, Philosopher and Physicist, 1623-1662)

This image was shot at Scindia Ghat along river Ganga in Varanasi (Benaras).
This young man was striking several poses in order to catch my attention so I could take a few snaps of him but I was pretending not to see him as I am mostly working on natural poses.
It was a Sunday afternoon before sunset and he came there to wash his laundry, his attitude was amazing, full of narcissism, each of his gesture was carrying vanity and pride…
After a while I couldn’t help laughing and I took a few pictures, in fact he knew that I was leaving the akhara nearby where I often take pictures of the pehlwani (wrestlers).

The pillar on the left belongs to the remains of a massive palace which used to stand on Scindhia ghat.
The entire structure has sunk several feet into the earth since its erection and is still gradually and slowly sinking.
Sometimes in the winter when the holy waters of the Ganges come very low it is possible to see it otherwise most of the time it stays underwater.

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Towards the Akhara

Posted in Pehlwans & Gurus with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2009 by designldg

© All photographs are copyrighted and all rights reserved.
Please do not use any photographs without permission (even for private use).
The use of any work without consent of the artist is PROHIBITED and will lead automatically to consequences.

This is a view of the little akhara (gymnasia) which is lost in the fields near Sakalhida, a village in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh at a few minutes from Varanasi (Benaras).
I was there a few weeks ago in the middle of winter and early in the morning, before sunrise, at the time where a heavy fog is still darkening the atmosphere of the countryside.
It is also providing a hazy effect which in a way emphasizes the timeless touch of many of my images.

At that moment I didn’t know yet that I’ll meet amazing faces of several generations of pehlwans (Indian wrestlers) that I would enjoy to capture with my camera.
I couldn’t expect that aura of invigorating peace and tranquility that was at the other side of this lane.
This place, away from the crowded environment of urban India, is actualy the ideal location for an akhara.
At the shade of a tree, under the aroma of freshly moistened earth and the coolness of a refreshing breeze, strength is measured against strength and moves and counter moves are born and develop in sweat…

All the pictures are following this one.

“Vanity is so secure in the heart of man that everyone wants to be admired: even I who write this, and you who read this.”
(Blaise Pascal – French Mathematician, Philosopher and Physicist, 1623-1662)

This image was shot at Scindia Ghat along river Ganga in Varanasi (Benaras).
This young man was striking several poses in order to catch my attention so I could take a few snaps of him but I was pretending not to see him as I am mostly working on natural poses.
It was a Sunday afternoon before sunset and he came there to wash his laundry, his attitude was amazing, full of narcissism, each of his gesture was carrying vanity and pride…
After a while I couldn’t help laughing and I took a few pictures, in fact he knew that I was leaving the akhara nearby where I often take pictures of the pehlwani (wrestlers).

The pillar on the left belongs to the remains of a massive palace which used to stand on Scindhia ghat.
The entire structure has sunk several feet into the earth since its erection and is still gradually and slowly sinking.
Sometimes in the winter when the holy waters of the Ganges come very low it is possible to see it otherwise most of the time it stays underwater.

Join the photographer at www.facebook.com/laurent.goldstein.photography

Pehlwans and Gurus

Posted in Pehlwans & Gurus with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2009 by designldg

© All photographs are copyrighted and all rights reserved.
Please do not use any photographs without permission (even for private use).
The use of any work without consent of the artist is PROHIBITED and will lead automatically to consequences.

This is a picture with a few pehlwans (Indian wrestlers) and their gurus (teachers) which I took in front of the little akhara (gymnasia) which is lost in the fields near Sakalhida, a village in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
It was in winter, early in the morning before sunrise, and it was still cold and foggy all around.
They are not used to have visitors but they were very friendly and they allowed me to stay for a while and to take as many pictures as I wanted.

This stiff way of posing is classic in India, many people believe that this is the right way to be in a picture and it often happens that people strike this pose whenever they think I want to make an “official” picture.
That morning I managed to make everyone laugh in order to take less formal portraits but later I selected those images as I wanted to show a genuine rural akhara.

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Becoming Lord Hanuman

Posted in Pehlwans & Gurus with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2009 by designldg
© All photographs are copyrighted and all rights reserved.
Please do not use any photographs without permission (even for private use).
The use of any work without consent of the artist is PROHIBITED and will lead automatically to consequences.

When I reached the little akhara (gymnasia) which is lost in the fields near Sakalhida, a village in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, I first saw this pelhwan (Indian wrestler) who was outside with a gada.

A gada is a large round rock fixed to the end of a meter-long bamboo staff which is lifted and swung for exercise.
It may weigh as little as five or as much as fifty to sixty kilograms.
In the Ramayana and Mahabharata the gada is often mentioned as a weapon.
In popular religious art and iconography Hanuman is almost never depicted without one.
It is not only the symbol of his strength but also of his countenance.
The gada he carries is highly decorated and made of gold.
At championship bouts wrestlers are awarded gadas made of silver.
The gada is, then, clearly the mark of a wrestler’s prowess.
Given the preponderance of phallic symbols in the akhara and the gada’s general shape it is evident that swinging a gada has clear symbolic overtones of sexual potency and virility.
Each time the gada is swung it is brought to a balanced position, erect from the wrestler’s waist.
The phallic aspect of the gada is also evidenced by its association with snakes.
In the Harivamsa Akrura dives into the serpent world where he sees Ananta asleep on top of a mace…
In shape a gada resembles the churning stick used to make butter and buttermilk.
A parallel between churning and sexual energy has been drawn above.
By swinging the gada one might say that a wrestler is churning his body to increase his store of semen.
(“The Wrestler’s Body: Identity and Ideology in North India” by Joseph S. Alter)

Join the photographer at https://www.facebook.com/laurent.goldstein.photography

Building an Iconic Body

Posted in Pehlwans & Gurus with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2009 by designldg
© All photographs are copyrighted and all rights reserved.
Please do not use any photographs without permission (even for private use).
The use of any work without consent of the artist is PROHIBITED and will lead automatically to consequences.

This was shot inside the little akhara (gymnasia) which is lost in the fields near Sakalhida, a village in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
This pelhwan (Indian wrestler) was practising with joris which are swung like gadas but they come in pairs weighing between ten and forty kilograms each.

Joris are often decorated with colorful designs, and many akharas have special pairs which are brought out only on such occasions as Nag Panchami and Guru Puja.
In contrast to gadas (weighted club used for exercise), joris are named the “white pair,” the “shiny ones,” the “thorny ones,” the “flowery ones,” the “mountainous ones” (many are named after a particular person who either made them, commissioned them to be made or swung them the most number of times).
While gadas have clear phallic qualities, joris symbolize breasts (recognizing, of course, that breast and phallic symbols are highly mutable and multivocal to the point of being almost interchangeable).
Not only do joris come in pairs, they are also swung from an inverted position with the wrestler holding firmly onto the titlike handle-grip as though he were milking a cow or buffalo.
If churning is the dominant metaphor of swinging a gada, milking is associated with swinging a pair of joris.
(“The Wrestler’s Body: Identity and Ideology in North India” by Joseph S. Alter)

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Time Is Very Short

Posted in Pehlwans & Gurus with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2009 by designldg

© All photographs are copyrighted and all rights reserved. 
Please do not use any photographs without permission (even for private use).
The use of any work without consent of the artist is PROHIBITED and will lead automatically to consequences.

A few pehlwans (Indian wrestlers) who were practicing their daily training accepted to pose inside the little akhara (gymnasia) which is lost in the fields near Sakalhida, a village in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
It was early in the morning before sunrise in winter and it was still cold.
They are not used to have visitors but they were very friendly and they allowed me to stay for a while and to take as many pictures I wanted.
Those writings on the walls kept my attention as well, on the left it says “Don’t let time go, do something”, on the write “Time is very important” and on the back wall “Jai Shri Ram”.
But I was surprised to see that on the top there was a painting of Lord Shiva with “Om Namah Shivaya” (ॐ नमः शिवाय) written underneath.
This mantra is an adoration to Shiva however akharas are usually following Lord Hanuman so I asked my brother Manish if it was customary but he answered that I should not use my mind the way I do…;)

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The Art of Wrestling

Posted in Pehlwans & Gurus with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2009 by designldg
© All photographs are copyrighted and all rights reserved. 
Please do not use any photographs without permission (even for private use).
The use of any work without consent of the artist is PROHIBITED and will lead automatically to consequences.

This was shot inside in a little akhara (gymnasia) which is lost in the fields near Sakalhida, a village in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
It was early in the morning before sunrise in winter and there was no bright light inside, this is why this picture has some noise but somehow I felt that it was also giving a kind of dreamy touch and a timeless effect.

Those pehlwans (Indian wrestlers) are following an art of wrestling composed of stance, paintra, and moves and countermoves, daw and pech.
Many wrestlers describe at length the importance of a balanced stance, the positioning of arms, legs and head.
A balanced stance puts one in position to apply a move or counter an attack.
“Paintra is the fixing of the feet on the ground after having made a move or having countered an attack.
It is the art of standing in the akhara.
It is the point of entry into the act of wrestling and the prelude to every dangal.
One’s stance puts one in a position to attack or retreat. . . .
Every stance has an appropriate counterstance, and one must move in tandem with one’s opponent.
Eyes and stance move together.
Stance brings color to the akhara.
A wrestler who is as quick as a black hawk, can, with wisdom and vigilance, move from stance to stance and confuse his opponent.
He may attack aggressively or retreat passively, drop down on all fours, move from side to side and turn around.
All the time he has in mind the move he wants to apply and uses his stance to choreograph the attack.
In a stance, one’s forward leg should be in line with one’s bowed head so that the chin is straight above the knee, and one’s center of balance fixed.
If one’s stance is like a pillar then an attack will find its mark.
One should be able to shift one’s weight from one leg to another so as to feint and attack without faltering.
When you set your stance, the forward leg is usually the stronger.
With the feet neither too far apart nor too close together, the angle between the feet should be between forty-five and fifty degrees. . . .
One’s hands should neither be fully extended nor left limp at one’s side.
They should be bent at the elbow and held firm . . .
One’s feet and hands should be tensed so that one can be fast on the attack and firm in absorbing and turning a parry aside.
With one’s right foot forward and body crouched there should be enough weight in the forward lean to make for a quick attack but not so much as will imbalance the body and make it fall out of control (Ratan Patodi)”.
(“The Wrestler’s Body: Identity and Ideology in North India” by Joseph S. Alter)

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